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FL-25: Rep. David Rivera Paid for Mailers for Fake Dem Candidate

Here’s a pretty incredible story out of South Florida. David Rivera, a Congressman who already has an impressive history of corruption, paid the bills for a fake Democratic primary candidate for his House seat.

Fueled with $43,000 in secret money, Republican Rep. David Rivera helped run a shadow campaign that might have broken federal laws in last week’s Democratic primary against his political nemesis Joe Garcia, according to campaign sources and finance records.

As part of the effort, a political unknown named Justin Lamar Sternad campaigned against Garcia by running a sophisticated mail campaign that Rivera helped orchestrate and fund, campaign vendors said.

Among the revelations: The mailers were often paid in envelopes stuffed with crisp hundred-dollar bills.

Rivera and Sternad have denied working together in his campaign, which ended Aug. 14. But Hugh Cochran, president of Campaign Data, told The Herald this week that Rivera contacted him in July and requested he create a list of voters who were ultimately targeted in the 11 mailers sent by Sternad’s campaign.

Sternad, a hotel employee making $30,000 a year, apparently never submitted an FEC report showing these campaign expenditures. yet he produced multiple mailers costing $43,000 in the district assailing Joe Garcia, who won the primary anyway. Sternad’s reports show that he loaned himself around $11,000 to pay for state filing fees, but he never reported work for the data company that compiled the voter lists, or the mailer company that produced the work. He never even showed that he paid his campain manager, who did receive a salary.

The revelation here is that Rivera was personally involved with campaign mailer consultants and printers, directing them to create voter lists and print the fliers. Hilariously, the Rivera campaign maintained that they’ve never heard of Sternad, but that Rivera “might have received an email from Campaign Data (the company that created the voter list) intended for Sternad’s use.” They claimed this was unintentional. So the alibi is that the data processor just sent an email of a large Democratic voter list to Rivera by mistake? Despite the evidence that Rivera forwarded this list on to the producer of the campaign mailers, and that the mailers got sent to the names on the voter list?

The payment in crisp hundred-dollar bills gives this a nice underworld-style touch. Rivera, according to one source, told someone at the mailer company to look outside their door and find the envelope with the hundreds for payment for one of the mailers. It’s real Carl Hiaasen kind of stuff. This is a representative bit:

(Sternad’s campaign manager) Alliegro was also involved in paying for Sternad’s mailers in cash — as much as $7,000 — delivering envelopes containing crisp $100 bills, sources familiar with Sternad’s campaign said.

“I have absolutely nothing to say to you,” Alliegro told a Herald reporter before she hung up the phone.

These are federal election crimes, if you haven’t been able to figure that out. They carry jail terms. And there’s enough evidence not only to call into question Sternad, but Congressman Rivera.

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David Dayen

David Dayen